Istomin, Kumkhum win Australian Open wildcards
Denis Istomin and Luksika Kumkhum will line up in the main draw of Australian Open 2017 after winning the AO Asia-Pacific Wildcard Play-off in Zhuhai.
Denis Istomin and Luksika Kumkhum have secured Australian Open main draw wildcards after winning their AO Asia-Pacific Wildcard Play-off finals.
Top seed Istomin, of Uzbekistan, beat second seed Duckhee Lee 7-5 6-1 while Thailand’s Kumkhum overcame Kai-Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei 6-4 6-3 on Sunday in Zhuhai.
“For me, the Australian Open is a very special tournament for my career,” Istomin said.
“In 2006 I played my first Grand Slam match at Melbourne Park, and it was with Roger Federer. For the last nine years I have never missed to play in the main draw.
“I want to say thanks to Tennis Australia and China Tennis Association for organising this event, to offer such a great opportunity for the Asian players to get a chance to play at a Grand Slam.”
Istomin and Lee had never played before, with Istomin having only seen Lee play for the first time last week at an ATP Challenger event in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Lee had his only break point throughout the first set in the 6th game, but his powerful forehand went wide. Istomin, meanwhile, had multiple, but couldn’t convert any of them until the 11th game.
Lee double-faulted to surrender serve in that game, and Istomin, now leading 6-5, took the first set with a service winner.
The inexperienced Lee, struggled to shake off the disappointment of how the first set ended, and Istomin quickly built a 5-1 lead.
He closed out victory in the very next game on his second match point.
“I think the key of winning is when I broke him at 5-all, ” Istomin said.
“I started to play more aggressively than the beginning, because I was waiting for him to make mistakes, but he didn’t. So I decided to go for my shots, and I did well. In the second set he was still fighting, but I got lucky with some points, he missed a few when attacking, and I was focused and serving well.
“I have a lot of respect for Lee, I wish him all the best and good luck with his upcoming career. He has a good future for sure, he’s still young, and he’s a fighter, I feel sorry that I won, but someone has to be the winner.”
Lee, with the help of a translator, said: “I really wanted to win today. I tried my best but (it was) not enough. Istomin is a great player. It’s OK, I will get another chance next year to play the main draw through the qualifying.”
In the women’s final, Kumkhum played faster and more aggressively in the first set, attacking Chang’s weak second serves and extending her lead to 5-2.
Chang saved two set points on Kumkhum’s serve in the next game, but then double faulted in the 10th game to give Kumkhum another chance. Kumkhum then produced a deep backhand half-volley winner and seal the set.
Chang held a service break lead early in the second set, but Khumkum wrested the momentum back.
A tired-looking Chang requested an injury time-out during the next changeover to get her right thigh strapped; she couldn’t use her leg to serve and double faulted on break point in the eighth game.
Kumkhum later served out the match with a backhand crosscourt winner.
“I’m very happy that I won today.” Kumkhum said. “My opponent played very well, but I noticed she’s tired, because she also played doubles final yesterday. And I know she played a lot of tournaments recently, as we just played in Taipei a couple of weeks ago. I’m happy I beat her this time.
“I actually have played in the Australian Open since (being a) junior. And I don’t know why, I really like playing there in Melbourne, and had some good results too.
“I feel like at home every time being there, not far from Bangkok, the weather and everything, I think if someone gets used to hot weather, they will like Melbourne too.”